Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Not a local snake, but a python seen in Canberra - Cluan's photo.

My friend wanted to walk to Gunner’s Quoin this week, but I declined as it starts off on the same route as Mount Direction about which Tyrone Thomas wrote in “100 Walks in Tasmania” that the whole area “is alive with snakes.” 
Instead we went to Kingston again in similar weather to our last walk – that is, there were a few spots of rain and some very dark clouds which completely obscured the beautiful views of sea and mountain which we were promised upon reaching the top of Picket Hill. Still, quite a pleasant walk amid rustic scenery and flanked by flowering dog roses. It wasn’t till we got home that I read the article my son had sent warning about  snake sightings in Kingston as well. 

The walk started well enough

View to the west where the mountains are

View from the top

I have an unholy fear of snakes. It's a bit irrational really as I have in fact seen very few snakes and they kill very few people, far fewer than those who die from  anaphylactic  shock after being stung by bees and the like. Indeed, domestic ladders cause ten times more deaths annually than either sharks or snakes, with drownings - about 5,000 in all over the same ten years of study, topping them all. Of around 3000* people who were bitten by snakes, there were only two deaths. Nevertheless, we have had some warm weather at last and there have been plenty of sightings, both here and on the mainland, such as the snake which visited a Canberra shopping centre recently for spot of Christmas shopping.

This is more the sort of country I associate with snakes

All Tasmanian snakes are deadly but that said, they usually do their best to stay out of the way, though there is always the chance of disturbing one while leaping over rocks and logs or scrunching through leaf litter or long grass. This why you should always wear fully enclosed shoes and long pants when you go bushwalking, even if you would much rather be wearing shorts and thongs (flipflops to UK readers). All snakes in Australia are protected, so you should never try to kill one either, unless it’s say, in your kitchen, in which case you may have a reasonable defence. Mostly you should just wait until it goes of its own accord as the following clip suggests. Many of the recorded snakebites occurred while people were trying to kill them or pick them up.


 Among the reasons people now rarely die of snakebite, is that we know much more about how their venom works and because there are much more effective treatments. In the first place you must keep the patient absolutely still since the venom moves through the lymph system before hitting the blood stream (and not all bites result in envenoming) and to prevent this happening, you should bind a compression bandage firmly but not too tightly about 10cms above and below the bite. Don’t wash it either and don’t try to extract the poison by any means, which was the old course of action. If the bite is on a limb, bandage right up it to the groin or armpit and then get help. It is no longer necessary to identify the snake as the new antivenom covers all contingencies – this is the other reason why people rarely die. I am indebted to my ex -sister in law, a nursing professional for this bit of information. Link to the full article here.
Ironically, over half the snake bites recorded in Australia occurred in urban areas and aound homes and not while bushwalking, which should be somewhat reassuring but isn’t. I mean, what if you are in the other half? If you do meet one in your garden or shed, leave it alone and call a snake catcher. Your local council or Parks and Wildlife Service will know where they are.

* These figures seem excessive (as do the ones for drownings) as you seldom hear about snakebites, yet I have checked several sources and they all quote the same numbers. Australian Geographic puts it closer to 100 a year of actual snake bites as opposed to 1,548  suspected bites. In either case only around 2 per year prove fatal. Note also what this article says about using CPR in the event of collapse.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Two local walks

Start of the Leslie Vale Track

 After the Mt. Dromedary fiasco, I have set my sights a little lower literally this past week and my friends and I have gone for gentler, shorter walks, not far from home. On both days the weather was still a bit drizzly, hence the rather dull picture quality, but quite pleasant walking weather all the same.

The first walk was the Leslie Vale Track through horsey country at the back of Kingston.  This is in fact one of several horse trails in the area and should take about an hour and a half if all goes well. The first part travels through farmland alongside the main highway and then does a short traverse through the bush before re -emerging between five acre paddocks. Unfortunately, we then came upon a “Y” junction which was not marked on the map and with no indication of whether to go left or right. This seems to be the story of my life lately. Since this was to lead us to a road, we decided on the route to the right, where you could see some houses in the distance. This, alas, ended in private property (unsigned as such) and as we were walking down a driveway towards the road, an angry farmer came out and told us off, adding that we weren’t the only ones. At least he wasn't the kind of farmer who comes out weilding a shotgun.  I told the council afterwards and they said thanks as they were in the process of reprinting the map and they would also try to add a directional sign at the junction. 

The only other blood pressure raising moments were walking back along busy Lesley Vale Road, which is narrow, windy and without footpaths and where the traffic goes incredibly fast. On the plus side, everything was lovely and green after all the rain and there were a few wildflowers about including a rare broadleaved Boronia.

I think this must be the rare broadleaved Boronia. Have asked Santa to bring me the definitive guide to native plants. The hand drawn sketches in the little field guides - lovely as they are, just don't cover things like this and the Field Naturalists are tired of me badgering them for information

The second walk, another shortish one on the fringes of suburbia, ran between Huon Road and the Waterworks Reserve. I was quite pleased to see the Reserve again, having recently written about it. You will see what I mean about the nod to aesthetics and not just practicality in the public works built around the turn of the century. There’s a nice little bit of history – more of a scandalous history really, documented within the little sandstone pumphouse at the far end. Many other tracks also start from here, more than I would have thought even though I have now lived in Hobart for over two decades.  The really lovely thing about them is that they are only about ten minutes’ drive from the centre of Hobart and you don’t need a lot of gear, yet you feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city with its crazy new parking meters and even crazier Christmas shoppers. 

Tranquility reigns or should I say rains, at the Reserve

Inside the old Pumphouse - see what I mean about the industrial architecture of yesteryear being somewhat more interesting than the utilitarian structures which followed

Birds call, the scent of eucalyptus is in the air and the wallabies don’t even bother to bound away as we pass. Alas the dogwoods, which bloomed more spectacularly this year than I have ever seen them, are now in decline but there are bright spots of trigger plants and foxgloves and  the odd unexpected orchid.    

Though fading now, the humble dogwoods have put on a spectacular display this year

Foxgloves are not native to Tasmania but their tall spikes add a touch of mystery and colour
Trigger plants do their best to compete
Along with these ????
... and these white daisy bushes.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Students Take Action against Climate Change

School children gather on the laws of Parliament House in Hobart on Thursday to protest about Government inaction on Climate Change

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not happy. School children all over Australia are leaving their classrooms to protest about the lack of action on Climate Change. “They should be in school,” he says, yet had school children not protested in 1992 due to lack of action by Governments, the French would probably still be conducting nuclear tests in the Pacific.
As temperature records are broken, Queensland burns and Sydney is in the grip of wild weather, the children say, “If the government was doing anything, we wouldn’t have to.” 

Some would argue that these children have a better understanding of science and how our democracy is supposed to work, than many of our elected representatives. They are also the ones who will have to live with the consequences of what we do or do not do today.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mt. Dromedary Unconquered

Start of the Mt. Dromedary Track, eventually - unmarked as well

I can confidently assert that my reputation as a slothbagger remains unblemished. I blame Google Maps for this at least in part, for first sending us up a couple of backroads that ended in large gates and private property signs. The signs may not have deterred me all that much, but the slavering dogs behind them certainly did.
After a roundabout journey which involved an assault from the back of New Norfolk, we did eventually find ourselves on another track which did not however, bear any relationship to the first one. 
It looks like a waxflower but is in fact a lemon -scented boronia (Boronia Citriodora). I didn't think of smelling it

Mt. Dromedary has a couple of claims to fame. It does have a distinctly camelid shape and at 989m it supposedly gives excellent views of the surrounding countryside, especially up and down the Derwent, so good in fact, that famous bushranger Martin Cash used it as his lookout to check for the arrival of stage coaches and or passing strangers who might be worth robbing. At least he was a gentleman about it, always polite to the ladies and kind to the poor, public protest being the only reason he wasn’t hanged and was able to end his life peacefully as police constable and orchardist in the foothills of Claremont below. Mount Dromedary is also reputed to have some interesting geological features – tafoni, which are very popular with striated pardalotes (not the extremely endangered ones).

One of several kinds of berries - possibly a Cheeseberry (Cyathodes straminea) or one of its relatives

We wandered up and wandered down. After a few hours we came to a t- junction and the second of a little clutch of tape markers. Unfortunately, they seemed to point mainly in the direction from which we had come, with no indication of whether to turn right or left.  My walking partner took the high road to the left and I proceeded down what looked like a gentle slope to the right. In case one of you bright sparks suggests we should have used the TasMap for this area, the latest walking guide says that the Tasmap isn’t correct either. Next time I will tape a GPS logger and a camera to my forehead, so that both Google and TasMaps will know exactly where to go. I will also take along a supply of breadcrumbs.

The mountain berries were especially bright here - (Leptocophylla junipera) Don't get excited though they have the taste and texture of polystyrene

After a kilometre or so, it looked as if neither of those tracks went anywhere, so we drew lots and headed south west on the assumption we should at least meet up with the other track from Platform Peak which was the alternative but longer route at the first junction. After another couple of kilometres we came to another track  which veered off confidently to the right – this in my estimation  could have led to the point where the track was to climb steeply uphill for 50 minutes, but instead it made another lunge downhill and in the wrong direction. My friend who is on the whole more cautious than I am, decided that we should quit while we were ahead and turn around before we got terminally  lost. 

White hakea was very prolific here too, though mostly this forest is rather dry and sparse

The tracks may well have been woodcutters’ tracks –there was a lot of sawdust and fallen timber about and the whole area had been burnt out a few years ago, which may have been the reason there were so few markers, as was the case at Little Fisher River a few weeks ago. This is getting to be a habit. I am a bit disappointed with my walks this year.

Three way junction - if anyone recognises this and can tell me which way to go I will give it another try. At least Mt. Dromedary isn't as far as Ben Lomond or the Hartz

By the time we got back to the car my feet felt like bleeding stumps and I had the distinct feeling that I should have stopped about three kilometres earlier. Secretly I am rather relieved that we didn’t find the ascending track. I don’t think I could have survived the 50 minute “Moderate” climb.  My friend estimates that we walked ten or twelve kilometres as it was, and it has taken me at least three days to get over it.  Soon I should be able to get to the upstairs bathroom without my trekking pole.(Don't worry, just joking. No need to send condolences).
Zoom still not working on my camera, but I think this may be a Hobart Brown Butterfly (Argynnina hobartia) Tasmania's one endemic butterfly - there were lots of them on this walk though Tasmania is not blessed with a large number of species, only 39 compared to the mainland's 400 or those in more tropical regions, but this too is an area which has not yet been well studied.

Still, if walking is about leaving the city behind and getting some exercise and fresh air, rather than achieving loftier objectives, we succeeded admirably and also saw some pretty wildflowers and dancing butterflies, not to mention a forlorn lilac tree in full bloom (not a native). You could say we had a lovely walk around Mt. Dromedary, if not exactly up it. However, this walk also reminded me  how truly wild Tasmania is, even just beyond the city fringe. It's no wonder our houses huddle together around a narrow coastal strip and generally turn their backs upon the bush.   

Last rays of sunshine as we head back down